By Nikki Jamieson
Paved roads appear to be a hot topic in the Municipal District of Taber.
During their recent annual general meeting, residents brought up road maintenance with the M.D. of Taber council.
One resident wanted the M.D. to set the record straight on Highway 513, a road that runs between Highways 36 and 877 south of Highway 3, as from what he heard, the province had basically dumped the majority of responsibility for the highway into the M.D.’s lap. Stressing that it was actually in pretty good shape, his concern was that the M.D. would have to turn the secondary provincial highway from a paved road back into a gravel one due to maintenance costs. Reeve Brian Brewin assured him that was not going to be the case, rather quite the opposite.
“What they’ve found with the province taking over these secondaries, they’ve become their last priority. All the plowing and everything is being done on Highway 3 and Hays, and secondaries, the 513s, are the last,” said Brewin. “The beauty of us taking over is the highways are our first priority, so we get out there and plow the secondary highways first, and then they’ll be cleared a heck of a lot quicker under the M.D.’s supervision then it’s going to be under the province, because they’ve come to their last to our first priorities.”
The M.D. made a deal with Alberta Transportation to take over the care of the highway in order to get paving done on Highway 877, which runs directly south of Grassy Lake to Highway 513.
“In order to get the pavement there that was kind of the deal we made with Alberta Transportation; you work with us on this road and we’ll take over a portion of this road,” said Brewin. “Otherwise, the traffic count on 877 would have never been high enough at the time (to get paved). It was a time when elevators were being closed and stuff out there, rail lines were being closed. So we thought it was an important route in order to get traffic into the south there.”
Jack Dunsmore, the director of planning and infrastructure, said that the road has up to six inches of asphalt on it, adding that “to turn that back into gravel, you’ll have to use dynamite”.
Brewin also said that it would be “foolish” to turn a paved road back into gravel.
“They do everything by traffic count, that’s the problem with the province,” said Brewin. “If the numbers aren’t there, the priority is lower.”
Another resident had an issue with a recently done road in the north part of the M.D. Although stressing that they had done a great job doing it, he said that “it was a big surprise at harvest time when we found out we couldn’t pass each other, and we discovered it again this spring.” Once farm machinery and equipment on the road, it becomes to narrow to safely pass, he claimed. As the road is built up, no one can pull over because it is too dangerous to do so.
Brewin said that it might just be a perception issue, referring it over to Jeremy Wickson, director of public works.
“The width of the road top is the same as it was before, if not wider,” said Wickson, saying most roads in the M.D. up for rehab are as small as 6-7 metres, and they’re increasing them to eight metre roadtops. “When you redo something, there’s definitely this question. You can’t see the grass on the side, it seems like the road shoulders are actually hinged instead of being flat run-off. It does give the perception the road is suddenly all peaked up instead and it’s cliffs coming off the side.”
“Us old farmers, we’ve all been taught to stay away from the shoulder, not to get too close to the shoulders or it’ll suck you in,” said Brewin. “The reality is, that road would be solid all the way out to the edge. I think it’s you and I who are used to stay back, away from the shoulder.”
“When the grass regrows, the edges are marked better,and then you’ll feel more comfortable,” said Bob Wallace, M.D. councillor. “I know it’s happened in the Hays are too, they felt narrow. The semis all had the same concern until the next year, when the grass was growing.”
Another resident was concerned that the upcoming paving job on Highway 3 would jeopardize plans to twin it. But from what council has heard, is that in order to do the sheer amount of work needed to twin the highway, even if work started tomorrow, it would still take at least seven years to complete it. Even then, there are some parts of the highway that people would like to see twinned first.
“Again, it’s prioritized, and our priority has actually been the Crowsnest,” said Brewin. “I don’t know if any of you have been in the Crowsnest on a long weekend, but it’s a smozzel out there. So that’s kind of the one we looked at at being number one priority. They are doing a study though on the portion between Taber and (Grassy Lake). Jake’s on that, and they’re going to be doing some preliminary studying, kind of looking at where to put it and everything else. It’s a huge undertaking to get that going, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”